How old were we when we stopped believing everything we read in textbooks? We live in a time when it’s impossible for content taught to children to be unadulterated by political views, in either direction. American and European history is a big culprit, and the evolution battle will (still) be around for awhile, but none of those fluctuating standards are completely universal across my generation. That is, none of the facts bestowed upon us as children were as consensual amongst people my age as the celestial golden standard: there are nine planets in our solar system.
In 2006, capping years of indecision, astronomers announced that Pluto was no longer a planet. For those of us who had solar system themed birthday parties, space mobiles above our crib, and/or the usual child’s fascination with outer space, this was a pretty huge linguistic event in the language of our lives. Even five years later, my generation still can’t stop talking about it in delusional nostalgia.
I liked outer space. I wanted to be an astronomer. I still do. But as a kid, one subject eclipsed every other in terms of my scientific curiosity: reptiles. I was obsessed with every kind of lizard, and like Modern Day A. Ruiz, I was obsessed with the so-called Terrible Ones.
And if you asked me, when I was seven-years-old, what my favorite Dinosaur was, I would have answered: Dimetrodon.
So fuck Pluto, that insignificant rock.
Dinosaur toys were fairly limited back in the day. Small plastic sets probably included the T-Rex, the Triceratops. Some would include a form of bronchiosaur or the like, and the niftiest probably had a pterodactyl, but a common piece in every set was a lizard with a fin on its back. In the language of toys, and cartoons like Dino Riders, the Dimetrodon was a Dinosaur. This wasn’t up to debate to seven-year-olds.
I don’t know when it entered the collective conscious of my generation, but at some point between high school and college, it seemed like everybody who knew anything about dinosaurs knew that the dimetrodon did not qualify. Like Pluto, it had become demoted.
In regards to the case of Science vs the Dimetrodon, resident Dino enthusiast A. Ruiz has been playing District Attorney for the last decade of my life. A. Ruiz might say that he follows the letter of the law of science, but in truth he simply hates the Dimetrodon. He despises the creature, and is intent to strip the prehistoric predator of all its well-earned Dinosaur accolades.
He ignores the lizardness and terribleness of the spinal-finned wunderkind. He points at the Dimetrodon’s early evolution, its similarities to early mammals, and the fact that it chewed its food. A. Ruiz is a meanie.
He’s also… probably… correct. As Dimetrodon’s legal defense, I failed to return glory to the creature. So maybe, like Pluto, the Dimetrodon isn’t want we thought it was. My generation learned many incorrect things about Dinosaurs and the Dimetrodon is just one inconsistency of fact between seven-year-old me and the cutting edge of modern paleontology.
So the Dimetrodon isn’t a Dinosaur.
I suggest, instead, that the Dimetrodon is so much more.